Sunday, August 26, 2007

Linden Labs: Normal.

When Shamp went around assigning tasks to various people, Leslie decided I would write about Linden Labs. (Thanks.) No, but actually, I was pretty stoked. I was led to believe that Linden Lab was a company that was out of the ordinary. Not so normal. Different. Unique.

I don't know if maybe Shamp had some specific insight from a SL Conference... or insider trading. Hey, who knows. The fact is, I can't really find anything that leads me to believe that they're too different from any new media company.... I mean their Founder & CEO built a computer in 4th grade. That's pretty cool. But other than that, nothing really stands out.

When you look at LL's website, you notice they describe themselves as cool.
The people are cool:
Everyone is smart, everyone is very good at what they do, and everyone has a chance to contribute. The environment is intellectually rich, dynamic, and creative. Passion and SMARTS rule!
Hmmmm. Now see, this here... This rubs me the wrong way. You don't usually write about yourselves as cool. If you're cool, you know it, and other people will eventually know it.

I worked at a company in NYC over the summer, and they were. Cool. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The company was hip. In fact, the other intern even said at one point "I don't think I would be able to work for them after graduation. I mean... face it... I'm just not cool enough". But that's not in our company motto. That's not on our website. Maybe they were joking around (for the record, I don't think they were), but it rubbed me the wrong way. Plus... they wrote "cool" on the same page as "3,000 CPUs and growing!". No. Those do NOT go together. I promise.

On an external website I found that Linden Lab promotes inventing, collaborating, and "most importantly" having fun while doing the above. Yeah, I get it. But when we sign up for jobs, in the real world, that's usually the idea. Maybe it's "being productive" instead of inventing... Or fill in your company's niche instead of "inventing", but nothing new there.

The company overall seems pretty idealistic. Every interview with Philip Rosedale, the founder and CEO, seems like a call to recruitment. Every word planned, nothing could be said without somehow tying it back to Second Life. And then he used the word
... Organic. That's a natural integration. One that for the typical consumer passes by and they don't even realize there was planning behind it; They just have an inherit feeling. To me, nothing about Second Life seems "organic".

Now, I'm not bashing Second Life. Or Linden Labs for that matter. I'm just saying that I was lead to believe I would find a very... surprising... environment that Linden Labs lead, and so far, I can't find anything that really stands out.

In addition, one blog notes that Linden Lab attracts people because it's a "cool company" but not because they pay well or actually treat their employees well.

One article, titled "Linden Lab's Metaverse Maths: 1 + 1 = 10" talks about how they have created a business model that barely allows them to survive as a profitable company. That makes me a little nervous... Because if they can't make money, then they can't put money back in Second Life. And if they can't figure out their own company, how are they supposed to figure out how it works in a virtual world?? Ya know? Have they set themselves on a
grow or die

One quote that stood out to me from that article was
You can think of it as a very sophisticated model of a Ponzi scheme :) which only works as long as it constantly grows, exponentially, with more and more users buying more and more sims. Unlike, say, web hosting services — where the setup fees are mostly speculative, and can be forfeited as a discount to long-term users — LL cannot afford to do that, or else their business model crumbles to dust.

My props to them? One guy created a parody of second life... Get A First Life. Instead of asking him to "cease and desist" they basically told him to proceed as usual, saying
We do not believe that reasonable people would argue as to whether the website located at constitutes parody – it clearly is. Linden Lab is well known among its customers and in the general business community as a company with enlightened and well-informed views regarding intellectual property rights, including the fair use doctrine, open source licensing, and other principles that support creativity and self-expression. We know parody when we see it.

Ha! I love it. Very clever. My overall analysis: Normal.

As far as their history:
The name "Linden" comes from the street its first offices were located on: 333 Linden Street. They have since moved twice with the second location coincidently on Second Street, and the current offices on Sansome Street (contact information (

A linden is also a type of tilia ( tree, but there are no "linden" trees in Second Life. The "lab" part of the name may be meant to invoke thoughts of expirementation as this is a large part of the development of Second Life, not just for Linden Lab but also for the residents--but there is no actual lab in the offices.

The logo for Linden Lab, a cube tree, was made by a contractor at the request of LL for something industrial yet also organic. The logo is sometimes mistaken to be an image of an avatar's "selection particles" selecting a cube.

The website Second Life History is a great resource.

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